1st Edition

Architect: The evolving story of a profession

By Eleanor Jolliffe, Paul Crosby Copyright 2023
    256 Pages
    by RIBA Publishing

    The architect’s role is constantly adapting. Throughout history it has shifted significantly, shaped by social, cultural, technological and economic forces. The very definition of what an architect is and does has evolved over time from lead builder or master mason to principal designer. A collaborative and reactive profession, it is inextricably linked to the power of the patron, whether the client is an influential and affluent individual or a political, commercial, civic or religious organisation. From Ancient Egypt, where architects were members of the ruling class, tied into the running of the empire, to the 21st century when questions are being raised about the future of the profession, this book, with its engaging narrative, explores the constant threads that remain as the profession adapts. While architects are no longer deified, their ability to imagine a new impending reality in built form implies a visionary dimension to their work. By focusing on both the practicalities of the profession and the more intangible motivations behind design – humans’ need to make a mark upon their surroundings – this volume provides a critical overview of over 3000 years of practice and education. Looking at the key questions of where the architectural profession originated in the Western tradition, why it is, how it is today and where it might be going next, the authors postulate that architects’ ability to adapt and reinvent themselves in the past will stand them in good stead for the uncertainties of the future.

    About the Authors


    Chapter 1 The Ancients

    Chapter 2 From the Medieval to the Modern

    Chapter 3 Formalising the British Profession

    Chapter 4 Democratisation and Commodification

    Chapter 5 Flawed Utopia

    Chapter 6 Recessions, Diversifications and Gradual Change

    Chapter 7 Global Practice

    Chapter 8 The Contemporary Architect: The Struggle To Convey Value

    Chapter 9 Educating Architects

    Chapter 10 Conclusions Image credits



    Eleanor Jolliffe is a practicing architect who holds Masters degrees in both engineering and architecture. She has a regular column in Building Design, and has been published in the Architects' Journal, Architectural Review and the Saturated Space research group at the Architectural Association.

    Paul Crosby is a full-time academic at the Architectural Association as Head of Professional Practice Part 3. He previously held senior positions in the offices of David Chipperfield, Zaha Hadid and Martha Schwartz.